Sens Thoughts – July 11th, 2015

1. I have to start off with advanced stat darling Erik Condra. It is insane that the organization let him walk. Even more insane is the fact the organization apparently offered less term and less money than the Tampa Bay Lightning. The money part is key, because Condra’s new contract cap hit of $1.25 million is exactly the same as it was in Ottawa. You could even argue he took a pay cut when you take cap inflation into account. Ottawa lowballed him hard. Add in the fact he told his agent to give Ottawa the chance to match, it becomes clear that Ottawa really had no real intention of keeping him around. It’s unfortunate because Condra mentioned to the media he wanted to be a veteran presence to the younger players in the future.

“I see a lot of the young guys here who I would like to help bring along, to be a calming presence, helping them on and off the ice in the future.”

We got a chance to see this where he was a driving force on the Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar line. Add in his elite penalty kill ability and it should have been a no brainer to keep him around. If budget was an issue, the team could have easily bought out Colin Greening and used those savings to keep Condra around with the budget essentially remaining even.

2. The two biggest arguments I saw from fans who were fine with letting Condra go were his inability to score and him blocking prospects from making the team. Condra finished the season with 23 points in 68 games. David Legwand finished with 27 in 80 and Alex Chiasson finished with 26 in 76. The latter two got plenty of powerplay time to boot. Condra may not be a prolific scorer, but I feel his lack of offence is an unfair label attached to him because of a few missed open nets. At least he produces those chances. Let’s also remember he was no slouch in the AHL where he averaged 0.85 PPG in his final season (compare that to Shane Prince’s 0.90 PPG this past season). When it comes to blocking prospects, there’s plenty of names I’d put ahead of him for that including Chiasson, Colin Greening, Zack Smith, and Chris Neil. If Condra is the one blocking your prospects than you’re probably one of the top teams in the NHL. At the end of the day, the defending Eastern Conference champions wanted Condra, so I think both of these arguments should go out the window.

3. Jumping back to Greening. How have the Sens not bought him out? He’s not going to hit 20 goals again unless the team has another Jason Spezza lying around. It’s almost like the team isn’t willing to admit they made a mistake with that contract to keep up with the whole smart spending under a budget narrative. Now I still think Greening could be a capable third or fourth liner in the NHL, but not at $2.65 million over the next two years. I certainly think he can play better than he has with Ottawa this past season. I actually feel bad for him. He knows his situation, and that has probably affected his mental game. This is where it’s best for both parties to just move on, but it needs to be the organization’s decision to have that happen.

4. It was a foregone conclusion that Robin Lehner would be moved. Knowing he would be, I was ecstatic with the return Ottawa received. A first round pick and the dumping of Legwand’s contract. It was certainly a win, especially when you saw what other goalies began going for later in the day. Regardless, I would have still preferred keeping Lehner over that return and tried moving Andrew Hammond instead. I still take the gamble that Lehner will develop into a very good goalie in the league. With Ben Bishop and Lehner both in the Sens’ division, fans will hear plenty of revisionist trade talk for years to come.

5. I still find it kind of funny that Ottawa held a press conference to announce the signing of local boy Eric O’Dell. Pierre Dorion did mention that they “think Eric is an NHL player moving forward“. Granted, I had never even heard his name prior to the signing, but taking a quick peak at his stats in the AHL, he’s averaged 0.91 PPG over the past three seasons. Those are certainly some good numbers on paper. One has to wonder if the team is considering fitting the 25 year old in as the fourth line centre if they can find a way to move 27 year old Zack Smith.

6. One of the bigger announcements by Ottawa was the re-signing of Chris Wideman. It was nice to see the Sens open the wallet, giving him $400k in the AHL to make him stick around for one more year. Combined with the trading of Eric Gryba, you have to think it’s almost guaranteed we’ll see him in a couple of NHL games. Can’t wait to see if his skills can translate to the big league.

7. It’s disappointing having the exact same defensive corps heading into next season. The organization isn’t quite willing to give up on Jared Cowen yet (publicly at least). While I agree Cowen has been a tire fire recently, there is a small part of me that does still believe he could bounce back. If he can come into camp healthy with a fresh mindset, who knows. It’s definitely been weird watching him progressively get worse instead of better over the past few years. He was a solid hockey player at one point.  Maybe it’s just false hope, knowing the success of next season may very well rest on his shoulders.

8. I really wish the Sens could have jumped on that Mike Green $18 million dollar three year contract that he landed with the Detroit Red Wings. He would have been the perfect insurance policy for an Erik Karlsson injury as well as an excellent addition to stabilize the second pairing. At 29 years old, the term was great as well.

9. The one contract I look at for why we can’t add a defenceman is Milan Michalek’s. I’d take Green over Michalek + $2 million any day of the week. For all the excitement management has when talking about their prospects, they certainly didn’t feel like Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Jakob Silfverberg were ready for top six duty when they extended Michalek. There lies the problem. As a budget team, they should be gambling a lot more on their prospects having success. While I’m not against having Michalek in the bottom six as an option for when there’s an injury to the top six, it’s not a luxury a budget team can afford at $4 million.

10. Development camp just wrapped up recently and I had the chance to attend the intrasquad scrimmage. The players who stuck out to me were Nick Paul, Tobias Lindberg, Ryan Dzingel, and Gabriel Gagne. I always take any prospect analysis from fans coming out of development camp with a grain of salt though. There is no way you can make a real judgement of a player based on an intrasquad scrimmage or a 3 vs 3 tournament. I remember a large number of people upset at Puempel’s performance in the development camp last year, even after he had just notched 30 goals in his rookie AHL season. I’ll take the larger sample of actual hockey games over the development camp any day.

11. That thought leads into why I’m very much excited to see both Paul and Lindberg make the jump to the Binghamton Senators. We’ll soon have a much better idea to how close they are to potentially becoming NHL players with them competing at a higher level.

12. It was recently announced that both Mike Hoffman and Alex Chiasson are going to arbitration. I am curious to how far apart Hoffman and the Sens are when it comes to the $ amount. We all know the organization isn’t quite as high on him as fans, despite his 27 goals. That leads me to believe it’s Ottawa lowballing Hoffman instead of him asking for too much, but that’s just a guess. Chiasson on the other hand is interesting. He made $900k with his past contract, and given his performance, I can’t see the team offering him much of a raise. Although I advocated keeping him from an asset perspective, knowing now that they let Condra walk at $1.25 million, I would have gladly let Chiasson go in favour of keeping Condra, especially now that it looks like he may very well end up with more than that.

13. Everyone’s seen the disaster of the Sens 25th anniversary logo. How so many people in the organization gave it a pass baffles me. It may not be as terrible as fans are making it out to be, but it’s certainly a logo that someone in the organization should have seen and thought “You know, I think we can do better.” There have been many fan made designs for the 25th anniversary logo that all look better than the official one, with many fans trying to use social media to try and have the team replace it with one of them. I don’t know if I’m completely on board with that idea. We need the organization to show that they’re capable of doing this themselves. Hopefully this acts a turning point for the branding of the team.

14. Speaking of branding, besides the design of the 25th anniversary logo, I think the most disappointing part was seeing the use of the modern centurion logo. It’s no secret that fans dislike it and would prefer going back to the 90s centurion or the heritage design. You would have thought there would be no better time to try and have a rebrand than the 25th anniversary. There’s still time though. Maybe the backlash on the 25th anniversary logo is enough to get them thinking.

15. If you’re free on August 16th, Sens Summer Fan Fest, an event organized by fans for fans is happening at MacLaren’s on Elgin from 1:00-5:30. Tickets are $30 and includes food, access to the pool tables, a free e-book for the first 200 tickets sold, and raffle tickets (over $1500 worth of prizes). The event will feature a presentation by Ottawa Senators founder Bruce Firestone, an appearance by one of Ottawa’s top local magicians, a trivia session, an NHL video game tournament, as well as a panel hosted by The 6th Sens. All proceeds from the event are donated to the Ottawa Senators Foundation. It will definitely be a fun way to get your mind focused back on the Ottawa Senators and hang out with fellow fans before September rolls around. Full details at senssummerfanfest.weebly.com.

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